Personalizing the Resurrection: The Power of Personal Testimony
April 4, 1999 Easter Sunday Luke 24:13-35
This message is the testimony of Jesus about himself. Jesus had gone to retrieve these two errant disciples, one of which was called Cleopas, who were skipping town after the resurrection – which was the very happening which he intended to hold them, and all of us, together. We are included in his insightful testimony to them because his testimony is also for us. And his testimony to them becomes a model for our testimony about him. His manner of drawing them to the truth is effective and convincing. This is the Easter message of the Risen One to his disciples. It is his message to us this Easter morning.
He had come to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road in order to make his resurrection personal to them. This was the day of the resurrection. They had heard about it from the women, but it had not yet become personal to them. In fact, they were leaving town. Jesus comes to commune with them in order to make it personal, and to bring them back to the rest of the disciples. The purpose for this is in his coming instruction to them all to ‘stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high’ (Lk. 24:49). Jesus has Pentecost in mind. We see in another account of the same passage in John 20:23 that he breathes the Holy Spirit on the group of disciples before Pentecost, but there are different gifts of the Holy Spirit of which Pentecost was to be unique in ushering in the Church Age. Jesus’ plan was that they all be together even from the beginning. There was no room for ‘splinter groups’ in his original design. We should also note that what does make the church one is our belief and acceptance of the testimony of his resurrection. Because of his resurrection, he is Lord of the Church.
We should notice the change in them once the resurrection does become personal to them, and the process Jesus took them through. He takes them from hearsay, to articulation, to insight, to involvement, to understanding, and then to ownership of the truth. So in Luke 24:49, after the power of his testimony has retrieved them, after they have been brought back to the main group of disciples with their own testimony of personal experience with the risen Christ, he appears to them all and gives his instruction that all the disciples are to stay in Jerusalem until they have been clothed with power from on high. Verse 53 reveals their obedience to his command since they then stayed continually in the temple, praising God. They had all indeed been changed by the power of his testimony to them.
In Mark 16:12, it says that Jesus appeared to the two of them in a different form. This was his resurrection body that he was going to reveal for their belief. Jesus leads us past our confusion into true communion with himself. He retrieves us from going astray in our discouragement. He cares about our concerns. He pleasantly rises above our petty short-sightedness with patient instruction. Whatever he withholds from us only accentuates the glory of what he would later reveal. He reveals himself to those who would invite him in. His fellowship reveals truth. His truth compels action. Let us take a look at the process they went through as he personalized the resurrection for them. It is a process we can lead others through as we personalize his resurrection in us for others to see. It is the power of personal testimony.
A. Hearsay: it wasn’t personal enough to keep them in town.
13 ¶ Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;
16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
· Place yourself in the shoes of these men - articulate the scene.
· They didn’t understand what Jesus had been telling them all along, Mt. 16:21.
· Walking news commentary - same confusion, trying to figure out what happened.
· Nathaniel - John 1:49
· Whatever he withholds only accentuates what he would later reveal.
· Jesus builds his case - he comes in the midst of our confusion.
· Necessary because of our fallenness and prejudicial darkness of our souls against truth.
· Personalize this in the probable events of people’s lives.
· We don’t have the whole picture because it is his purpose - but he is still there and actively leading us.
· How can we be like Jesus to counteract the hearsay - incomplete knowledge that others may have? We must come and walk beside them where they are at - even if they walk away from truth as they discuss what truth is - and patiently pursue a plan of personal revelation about Christ and about ourselves. We must reveal his testimony in us which is his resurrection power over sin which brings us to new life, 2Cor. 5:13-17.
B. Articulation: stating the facts and getting them in order.
17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast.
18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19 "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;
21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning
23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.
24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
· The first thing Jesus did was to get them to articulate, organize and process the information that they knew.
· Those who are on a search for truth will have some facts but may not know how to interpret them.
· This is the beginning point of discussion.
· This is where Jesus comes in - it is where we come in.
· We must ask questions, be open, and listen.
· We need to know what there is to work with before we can go further.
· This point in the process is therefore beneficial for both sides.
· We must start where people are at, but we must know where that is.
· This also gives them, and us, credibility.
· And it opens the way for the working of the Spirit - which comes next.
C. Insight: understanding the facts in the light of spiritual truth.
25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
· Notice that Jesus did not call them “fools.” He confronted their process, not their personhood.
· To construct a case, we often have to go back to the basics - the beginning.
· 1Cor. 3:1-2
· As Jesus focused the Scripture upon himself, so must we, for it is him we must reveal even in our personal testimony.
· In the Old Testament we have preparation for Christ; in the Gospels, the presentation of Christ; and in the Acts through Revelation, the appropriation of Christ. -- Warren Wiersbe, Be Free, p. 85.
D. Involvement: thirsting for personal meaning of spiritual truth.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther.
29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
· Like Jesus, we must allow people to take steps at their own pace.
· He did not press himself upon them but yet was willing to get involved.
· Is this “psychology”? - possibly. But it works because it is effective with human personality to give credibility to the personhood of the individual.
· At this point, just as the ‘day is almost over,’ most of the battle has been won because the invitation has been given - credibility has been established.
· There is a thirst for more.
E. Understanding: coming into Christ’s personal communion with us.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
· What more is to be revealed is the fullness of Christ for complete understanding.
· What is your vision of the resurrected Christ (vs. 31)?
· This is where the depth of your personal testimony comes in.
· It results in your fellowship with another believer through your fellowship with Christ and his with you and them in return. It is being one in Spirit.
· Why did Jesus disappear from their sight?
· They have wrestled with truth, embraced it, and received it. Now the best way to apply it must be left again to the personhood of the believer.
· Take note of ‘their hearts burning within them.’ Our hearts can burn with a desire for sin or for righteousness. At this point they are being baptized with holy fire.
· The point we must bring people to is to ‘recognize’ Jesus - just like Nathaniel.
· We relive this sacrament that Jesus took them through each time we commemorate his revelation of fellowship with us in communion. We did this on Good Friday during our service. In a sense, we do it each time we meet together.
· This is our communion with the resurrected Christ - his personal revelation to us.
· Do our hearts burn with this holy truth?
F. Ownership: it was now personal enough for them to go tell others.
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together
34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."
35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
· The result of this truth within us is that it has become so real and personal to us that we cannot keep silent, 1Cor. 9:16. We have become forever changed by the resurrected Christ. He has become personal to us. We must make him personal to others. We have a testimony of his appearance to us.
The resurrection of Jesus is a personal experience he longs to share with us in order that we may share his eternal life with him. He desires that we experience it with him. Has the resurrection become personal to you? Have you come to new life by faith? Have you come into communion with him? We have been raised to righteousness from the depths of sin by faith in the resurrected Christ.
There is another, slightly later, counterpart to this event of Jesus appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is in the account of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-40. Philip, the evangelist, was one of the 11 who was scattered after the stoning of Stephen. In this story, like Jesus on the road to Emmaus, we can see the same process of divinely directed appearance and of testimony, the personal witness of the resurrection, only this time from one of Jesus’ disciples - like you and me. The Ethiopian didn’t understand what he was reading from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah about the death of Christ. He only had partial knowledge which was not saving knowledge. He needed someone to explain to him the ‘good news’ of the resurrection. He then was saved and got baptized in his personal identification of the death, and of the resurrection, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith would be in vain if Jesus had stayed in the grave. But he has risen! He has risen indeed! And so will you, if you believe.